Grady HS coach, 2 APS employees disciplined for mishandling sexual incident

The incident took place Jan. 11, but records obtained by Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher show there was no official report until two days later.

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned that Atlanta school officials recommended suspending the head football coach of Grady High School and even more severe discipline for two other APS employees because of their mishandling of a sexual incident involving three football players and a female student.

The incident took place Jan. 11, but records obtained by Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher show there was no official report until two days later.

Alexa Ross, an attorney and expert in education law, says Georgia law requires that such incidents be reported within 24 hours.

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Channel 2 obtained a copy of the heavily redacted report of the school district’s investigation into the incident. Also released were letters from APS Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen to each of the three educators who were involved.

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Football coach Earthwind Moreland was to be suspended for one day without pay. His disciplinary letter concluded that Moreland “acted unprofessionally when you (redacted) on January 12, 2017.”

Investigators cleared Moreland of the more serious charge of failing to report the incident as required. It is not clear if Moreland has served his suspension.

The findings against veteran teacher Carrie Rowe and social worker Kara Wright were far more critical and the punishments more stringent.

Both were found to have violated three standards of the state’s Code of Ethics for Educators: Conduct with students, Required Reports and Professional Conduct. APS is expected to forward its findings to the Professional Standards Commission, which licenses teachers and sanctions misconduct.

APS suspended Rowe for five days without pay and recommended that Wright be terminated. The social worker resigned Feb. 23, effective March 31. Rowe was to serve her suspension Feb.27 to March 3.

Attorney Alexa Ross told Belcher, “The employee of a school system who learns of (a sexual incident) must report. Failure to report is a misdemeanor under Georgia law.”

APS says the sexual contact was consensual. There was no allegation of sexual assault, and there is no ongoing criminal investigation.

The incident apparently took place during lunch break and off campus. Ross told Belcher, “Whether it’s on campus or off, the school system is responsible for the welfare of the students.”

Ross was mildly critical of the heavy redactions made by APS lawyers before the report was released. Federal privacy law forbids the release of students' names, but several pages of the report were partly or wholly blacked out.

“An enormous amount was left out, and I don’t know if what was left out was legitimately left out or not. We have no way of knowing,” Ross said.

Channel 2 was unable to reach the three educators involved.

Grady’s athletic programs had another embarrassment a year ago when the Georgia High School Association stripped the boys' basketball team of 12 victories and a region championship because the team had played an ineligible player.